Delegation of the Ismaili Imamat: Architecture of Peace and Plurality – RAIC org / Links to inauguration by the Aga Khan and the Prime Minister of Canada

2012 Governor General’s Medals
in Architecture


On a prominent site in Ottawa, this secular facility conceived by the Aga Khan as a sanctuary for peace, diplomacy and global pluralism, powerfully expresses its mission through an architectural “bridging of dichotomies”: modernity + tradition, light + dark, indoor + outdoor, west + east. Clad in luminous crystallized glass panels, the Delegation Building focuses upon two symbolic meeting spaces—the glass-ceilinged Atrium, inspired by natural stone crystals and Islamic geometries, and the open-air Courtyard, inspired by Chahar-Bagh, the traditional Persin-Islamic walled garden.

Photos: Tom Arban (Click on a photo to enlarge)

Jury Comment:

“This is a significant addition to Ottawa’s repertoire of diplomatic buildings and puts Canadian architecture firmly on the world stage. Impressively monumental in scale, the project combines a powerful civic presence with a remarkable level of sophistication. Its integration of traditional Islamic motifs such as specially crafted screens and a lush courtyard garden is choreographed with assurance and sensitivity, bringing the building wonderfully to life as a delicate and sensual piece of architecture, while the quality of materials and detailing is outstanding.

See more on RAIC org


Inauguration of the Delegation of the Ismaili Imamat in Ottawa, Canada

Please also see: Speech by His Highness the Aga Khan and Photographs

More on AKDN org


Opening of the Delegation of the Ismaili Imamat in Ottawa

Watch video on The Ismaili org


Also read:

Light Upon Light: Inside Ottawa’s Spectacular New Landmark – The Delegation of the Ismaili Imamat

Professor Karim H Karim

This is an edited version of an article that was originally published in the Ottawa Magazine in 2009.

It sparkles like a brilliant jewel, shining whiter than the fresh snow that blankets its wintry landscape. The Delegation of the Ismaili Imamat, Ottawa’s newest landmark, is a graceful marriage of East and West. Situated on a prime section of Sussex Drive with the Saudi embassy on one side and the Department of Foreign Affairs on the other, the building features a confluence of traditional Islamic motifs and contemporary materials -its intent to serve as “a metaphor for humanism and enlightenment” reflected in both exterior and interior. The shapes of its structures, the flows of its space, the sightlines, the materials and the finishing, all serve to accentuate the effect of light.

Download PDF version of article (88 KB)


The design appears to be inspired by a well-known verse from the Holy Qur’an:

God is the light of the heavens and the earth

The parable of His light is as if there

Were a niche

And within it a lamp

The lamp enclosed in glass

The glass is as it were a brilliant star

Lit from a blessed tree

An olive, neither of the East nor of the West

Whose oil is well-nigh luminous

Though no fire touched it

Light upon Light!

Read more on IIS UK


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